11.0237 unexpected benefits of automation

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Fri, 15 Aug 1997 15:21:52 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 11, No. 237.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Fri, 15 Aug 1997 15:12:38 +0100
From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk>
Subject: not joking

Two items to lighten your mental load, from the Thursday Guardian, the main
section, pp. 2 and 3.

(1) "It's good to talk to a petrol pump". These days it seems that many
service devices, such as traffic lights, petrol (gas) pumps, drinks
dispensers and public toilets, have their own telephone lines and modems so
that they can call in to report problems. "Automation, while failing to
deliver on many promises (self-propelled vacuum cleaners, robot lawnmowers),
has managed to give us the mechanical nuisance caller. Self-diagnosing
machines, sitting on the end of their own telephone lines, are programmed to
ring control points to report faults or other problems. But when the wrong
telephone number is programmed, those at the wrong end of the line can be
driven up the wall. This is because the machines often dial tirelessly, on
and on, until someone stops them.." The British Telephone Nuisance Calls
Bureau reports that, "We've had a soft-drinks machine which has run out of
drinks ringing every few minutes and a medical fridge full of insulin trying
to raise the alarm because the temperature had fallen.... In another case,
an elderly woman was rung throughout the night by a public lavatory in a
part trying to report a fault." This is more annoying than you might think,
because these devices do not generate any tone but remain entirely silent,
so that the one rung can mistake such a call for a malicious event.

(2) "An online service to die for: your very own virtual headstone". Right,
this is about Britain's first online cemetery. "There will be no need to
walk to the gravestone of loved ones to pay your condolences, only to click
on their virtual headstone.... 'We are seeking to bring back the dignity to
funerals,' said Mr. [David] Wilkinson [Methodist preacher from Clevedon,
near Bristol], who works at an estate agent's [information that will add
much meaning to his comments for anyone who has recently purchased a house
in London]...."

I couldn't possibly comment.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Dr. Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer, King's College London
voice: +44 (0)171 873 2784 fax: +44 (0)171 873 5801
e-mail: Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk

Humanist Discussion Group
Information at <http://www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/humanist/>